F1

Toyota thanks Panis and Zonta

Au revoir Olivier Panis, adeus Ricardo Zonta Panasonic Toyota Racing would like to express its thanks to Olivier Panis and Ricardo Zonta for their efforts during the year and throughout their time with the team. Both drivers come to the end...

Au revoir Olivier Panis, adeus Ricardo Zonta

Panasonic Toyota Racing would like to express its thanks to Olivier Panis and Ricardo Zonta for their efforts during the year and throughout their time with the team.

Both drivers come to the end of their contracts this year and will leave the team to pursue new challenges. The team wishes them the very best of luck for their future careers.

Zonta, 30, joined the team in 2003 and has spent four years testing for Toyota, three of them in the role of third driver. It was in that position he made his race debut with the team in 2004, driving for three races as substitute for Cristiano da Matta. He came agonisingly close to scoring Toyota's first Formula 1 podium in Belgium before bad luck denied him his moment.

As a farewell gesture, the team presented him with a cake, a car part and a Toyota flag signed by the whole team.

Panis spent four years with the team, two as a race driver before retiring from Formula 1 competition to concentrate on testing duties for 2005 and 2006. In that time he worked hard to help Toyota move up the grid in Formula 1 and his experience has proved invaluable to a young team.

But Panis announced his retirement from Formula 1 in September and the last test of the season at Jerez today marked the end of an era for the Frenchman, Toyota and the sport.

The Frenchman has deservedly been the centre of attention since flying into Spain on Wednesday and he attended a dinner organised by Toyota in his honour in Jerez last night where he reminisced with the international media about his 12 years in Formula 1, a long and successful career at the top which has now come to an end.

To celebrate Panis' contribution to Formula 1, Toyota Motor Europe handed over a piece of the Jerez circuit's asphalt as a permanent reminder of his many testing laps at the track. Close friend and Toyota colleague Jarno Trulli was also there to lend his support and he delivered a surprise gift, one of his racing helmets.

The test team said 'adieu' to Panis by signing a rear wing end plate, which was presented to the 40-year-old at lunchtime. He already received an entire Formula 1 car as a present from Panasonic Toyota Racing at the 2005 French Grand Prix - now has a personalised spare part.

Surrounded by team members, Panis posed for photographs and that proved to be his last act of the day in the Panasonic Toyota Racing garage when he stopped driving early as he was feeling unwell with a cold.

-credit: toyota

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